Birmingham art gallery and artist studios complex Grand Union is beginning the transformation of Junction Works, a Grade II listed building on Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, thanks to the flexible approach adopted by Homes England in granting the lease, and a funding package comprising £500,000 from Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund, £25,000 commercial sponsorship from Stoford Development and £150,000 private investment.
The first phase of works, starting this summer, will renovate the front part of the building, creating four new office suites for regional creative sector businesses by the beginning of 2022. Homes England has been working closely with Grand Union to pump prime this project. It will eventually see the charity’s gallery and artist studios relocate from their current home in Minerva Works.
Junction Works, a beautiful mid-nineteenth century building, is located in the Warwick Bar conservation area, at the junction of the Grand Union and Digbeth Branch canals. It has been empty for several years after suffering fire damage in 2004.
Many Birmingham property sector businesses are providing a huge amount of support and expertise for the project. Bruntwood Works, the workspace and leisure provider behind Cornwall Buildings and Cornerblock in Birmingham, is leading a project team including Associated Architects, DW Consulting, Robinson Low Francis, and Ramboll UK. BPN Architects and Fieldfisher Law Firm have also provided significant support to the project. Construction company, GRAHAM, which has recently completed the renovation of The Grand Hotel in Birmingham, will be delivering this first phase of refurbishment of Junction Works.
Grand Union’s fundraising campaign, with a target of £2.6m to undertake Phase Two works, will see the opening of a brand-new public gallery space, cafe, events space and artists’ studios in this stunning heritage building.
Grand Union opened in its current site in 2010, providing much needed high quality, affordable workspace for artists and a public gallery that has built an international reputation for presenting cutting edge contemporary art and supporting artists at pivotal points in their careers. Last year it hosted Jamie Crewe’s exhibition Love & Solidarity which received a Turner Prize Bursary in 2020. Grand Union’s Programme Director Kim McAleese has been part of the panel of judges for the 2021 iteration of The Turner Prize launching at The Herbert Gallery, Coventry later this year. Grand Union also has an innovative approach to working collaboratively with communities in the city. They have recently launched a mini documentary about The Growing Project, a community-led growing scheme bringing artists and people who are vulnerably housed to transform unloved spaces into active shared gardens.
Grand Union’s Director, Cheryl Jones said:
“This is such an exciting development for our capital project, which will transform our organisation and the opportunities we can offer to people to experience, connect with and create visual art. Collaboration is key to our work at Grand Union and so we are delighted to be working with GBSLEP and so many brilliant businesses in the city’s property sector on this project. Their generous investment and support mean we can begin to create a sustainable organisation that is able to provide inclusive cultural activity long into the future. In addition we are proud to be bringing an historically significant and beautiful building like Junction Works back to life.”
Tim Davies, Senior Development Manager at Homes England said:
“It is fantastic that this project is now moving into construction, which will result in vibrant activities being undertaken within this heritage building. Reaching this stage of the project is the result of more than four years collaborative efforts led by Grand Union.
Importantly it is the next step in the regeneration of Homes England's landholdings in Digbeth which have the capacity for over 1700 homes to be constructed.”
Anita Bhalla, Board Director for Creative Industries and Culture at GBSLEP said:
"Our cultural organisations are an integral part of the regional economy and here at GBSLEP we are committed to investing in projects that support local growth. Our investment of £500,000 in the development of the Grand Union Gallery and Artist Studios reflects our belief that the creative Industries are a catalyst for job creation.
Cultural offerings are at the heart of a city like Birmingham. They attract visitors and contribute to the wellbeing of our residents. We must ensure our region's cultural organisations are at the heart of economic recovery as well as personal wellbeing as we emerge from Covid-19.
The Grand Union project Is another example of how GBSLEP drives sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the region and I am looking forward to seeing the opportunities that will be created as a result of our investment.”
Gerard Ludlow, Director at Stoford said:
“Stoford is delighted to be able to support Grand Union with the development of the Junction Works in Digbeth. It is a significant step in their evolution and we are pleased to see them remain as an important part of the arts community in Birmingham.”
Ronan Hughes, GRAHAM Regional Director, said:
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Grand Union to deliver this first phase refurbishment project at the Junction Works, which will create contemporary space to fire the imagination of Birmingham’s next generation of creatives. GRAHAM has established a strong presence in the city, and in line with our commitment to ‘delivering lasting impact’, we are looking forward to strengthening our relationships with local subcontractors, community groups and charities in the completion of this exciting project.”
Rob Valentine, Director for Birmingham at Bruntwood Works, said:
“At Bruntwood Works, we're committed to creating thriving cities. Providing the space for creative and artistic hubs to flourish not only enhances the quality of life in a city, it's also an important economic driver for the region.
"We're proud long-term supporters of Grand Union, with a number of artists in residence at our Cornwall Buildings over the years, so we're immensely proud to be providing a permanent home for the team. The transformation of Junction Works will not only provide a high-quality, inspiring base for Grand Union, the project is also helping to connect a community of supporters, and build a future network for creativity, ideas and collaboration."